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Monster Strike (iOS) artwork

Monster Strike (iOS) review


"Tons of monsters and fast-paced battles make Monster Strike one of the best games of its type."


Remember when Puzzle & Dragons first hit mobile devices and it was all anyone could talk about? That's how it seemed to me at the time, anyway. So I downloaded and tried playing that game, but it never quite hooked me.

Monster Strike offers a similar sort of experience, but with a key difference that makes it fresh and exciting: instead of moving orbs and hearts around to make matches, you launch monsters and they bounce around an arena, causing damage to their foes and activating bump effects if they brush against their friends. The game is much simpler than its apparent inspiration on the face of things, but there's actually quite a bit of strategy involved.

Monster Strike (iOS) imageMonster Strike (iOS) image


More than enough mobile titles have borrowed elements from Puzzle & Dragons by now, with varying degrees of success, which means Monster Strike feels familiar to a point that might inspire boredom. Every day, new quests are available during particular hours, on a rotating schedule that you never know terribly far in advance. You can play at those specific times for a chance to recruit powerful new allies, or to strengthen those who already make up your team. A shop lets you buy "orbs" with real money, something I have done on multiple occasions, or you can earn them by completing events. Those orbs allow you to hatch special eggs to get exclusive new breeds that aren't available elsewhere.

There's probably a way to write about that framework and make it sound exciting, but I'm not sure what it is. A lot of mobile gamers have "been there, done that" by now. The thing is, Monster Strike actually is quite exciting. Building up a roster full of powerful beasts will always be cool, I think. Forming them into teams that manage to finally topple an uber-powerful adversary is a thrill each time, even if you've done something similar done in past games.

Though Monster Strike is typical in most respects, however, it also has a lot going for it that some of its competition doesn't. For starters, the artwork is gorgeous. There are more than 1500 monster types available now (though many still aren't accessible in North America). Although a lot of that count is thanks to variants, you're still talking around 300 to 400 distinct creatures. Most of them manage to look quite attractive, courtesy of boldly colored, detailed artwork. It's a treat each time you recruit a new ally, even if you won't wind up using him or her.

Monster Strike (iOS) imageMonster Strike (iOS) image


A lot of the gorgeous illustrations are best enjoyed when you browse the monster encyclopedia, or as you are building your teams, but you'll see those same cool designs when you're facing a given adversary on the battlefield. There, the artwork is also joined by visual effects, such as homing shots snaking around the field, or a bunch of monsters bouncing around like pinballs in multi-ball mode. Laser beams crisscross the field, glowing magic lights up the walls, and gravity fields form on the ground. There's always something to see.

Matches are also quick paced. You can take several turns per minute if you're so inclined, and a given event will sometimes end in as few as four or five turns. More grueling battles could last 40 or 50 turns and might require more time spent deciding what approach to take, but there's not a lot of downtime even if you're playing online with friends or strangers.

What I like best, though, is the strategy that takes place before you ever enter an event. Characters are classified according to element, and there are five total elements available: fire, water, plant, light, and shadow. Fire trumps plant, plant trumps water, and water trumps fire, while shadow and light magic mostly cancel each other out. If you try to defeat a powerful fire monster but you bring all of your otherwise powerful plant critters, they're going to get fried to a crisp. That will not go well for you, which is only common sense. But there are additional complications, as well.

Monster Strike (iOS) imageMonster Strike (iOS) image


The barriers that I mentioned a moment ago are one such complication. If one of your monsters strikes a glowing rail, it will take damage, perhaps even enough to instantly end the match unless you're ready to sacrifice an orb to keep things going. However, some monsters are immune to that hazard. There are other threats, though: gravity fields that slow movement to a crawl, mines that litter the field and explode when touched and even portals that warp a monster around the battlefield with unpredictable results. You can bring along breeds with skills that counter those complications, but you might not have strengthened them enough to take down a real bruiser.

So Monster Strike quickly becomes a game about building a versatile roster, and making sure that every one of those monsters is as powerful as you can make it. Then when you see a heavy hitter like Medusa starring in her own event, you have a good chance of taking her down--with or without friends--and claiming her for your own. Of course, then there is the matter of "luck," which determines how likely you are to get special drops during combat (including helpful hearts to restore health, and special golden eggs). To improve your luck rating, you have to fuse two of the same monster type. Getting a "max luck" version of a truly powerful monster could require literally months of effort.

As you might expect of a game that keeps players occupied for perhaps hundreds of hours, there's a lot more to Monster Strike than I've described above. Monsters can evolve or ascend--each with separate benefits--and they can complete battles in shrines to gain special innate abilities, such as improved gold or experience collection. Specific traits such as HP, ATK and SPD can also be enhanced by combining a favorite breed with "morlings," and you'll need to sell less useful varieties (or frequent battlefields that drop a lot of cash) in order to remain on solid fiscal ground. Whole web sites have been built around the game's bestiary and mechanics, and they're updated constantly in order to keep up with new developments.

Monster Strike (iOS) imageMonster Strike (iOS) image


Monster Strike first arrived in North America in late 2014, and I've played it very nearly every day ever since. There are rewards for logging in on subsequent days, which prompts a person to open the app for at least a moment on a regular basis, and then it only makes sense to play a quick round or two or five or ten. That's how such games get their hooks in you. But if you let this particular one capture your attention, you probably won't mind having done so. There's more than enough content to keep you coming back for a long while, and it's possible to play the game quite a bit and have a great time without spending real-world money, as well. Give it a shot sometime. Maybe I'll see you on the battlefield!

4/5

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (December 30, 2015)

Jason Venter has been playing games for nearly 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he also writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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JoeTheDestroyer posted January 01, 2016:

I'm still sore that I missed the Godzilla collab. Maybe they'll do a new one once Godzilla: Resurgence (new Japanese Godzilla movie) hits.

A great review you have here for one of the few mobile titles worth playing. I still stand by Puzzle & Dragons, though I've given up that game, as well as Brave Story and Monster Strike. I was sinking way too many hours into games like this to the point that I was becoming unproductive at home, eating up my phone battery like it was nothing, and sometimes going way over my data plan whenever I forgot to connect to a hotspot.
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honestgamer posted January 01, 2016:

I've had several games of this sort going. It's easy to find a few decent mobile titles and start playing them just a little bit every day, and suddenly you're spending an hour or two every day on mobile games that you don't even especially enjoy anymore, just because you've already invested so much time in them. So I hope that reviewing Monster-Strike (which I still do like, mostly) and other titles along those lines will free me up to move on and play games that have a definite beginning and end.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted January 01, 2016:

Ugh, I started playing Tap Titans the other day and I discovered two things about it:
1) I flat out don't like it, and
2) I can't stop playing it.

I think, as you said, reviewing it will give me enough of a sense of finality so I can move away from it before it becomes another time sink.

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None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Monster Strike is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Monster Strike, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher. 1516355000